As a young college student, I remember vividly my first diversity studies class at the University of Utah. It was called the “Sociology of Gender” and I registered for it as it met one of my requirements. I have never been the same since. It literally rewired my brain. Growing up white in Utah in the 70’s, to say that I was oblivious to experiences of prejudice and racism is an understatement. Since that day in 1995, I have been on a journey of unlearning and relearning.
In the Ivory Tower, we all spoke the lexicon of diversity, inclusion, equity. We utilized terms such as marginalized, intersectional, gender fluidity, internalized racism/sexism/heterosexism, etc. Outside of the Ivory Tower I was rarely having these conversations because the terms and concepts were not part of the dominant culture and lexicon.
As I learned the history of our country through the lens of the Native American Experience, the African American Experience, the Chicano/a American Experience and through the experiences of women – I was outraged that this fuller picture of history had been kept from me – it simply was not included in the “core curriculum” of the time. I was brainwashed and whitewashed. I was appalled. This led me on a quest to teach race/class/gender studies to high school students and I had the rare and amazing privilege to do so at the Oakley School. I learned so much from that experience. The students taught me how to listen and hold space for difficult and challenging conversations. There is no tougher audience than a room full of high school students and I feel honored to have shared in meaningful and transformational work with them. The students were willing to explore their privilege. They wanted to be the change, and when I hear from them 20 years later – I am delighted to report, they are the change.
I am proud to live in a community which clarifies our values around diversity, equity and inclusion. Social Equity is one of the 4 critical priorities of our community. It is incredible – we are willing to have the conversation, as a community. In my experience as a student, teacher and facilitator, a white heterosexual woman, these conversations are always hard (if we are being open, honest, courageous and vulnerable). Let’s continue to have them.
As the Executive Director of Communities That Care, I see first-hand how the social determinants of health affect the wellbeing of our residents. We must address the issues of racism, homophobia, sexism, environmental degradation and classism as these forces are often the root cause of so much of the trauma we are seeking to prevent through our work. Racism is identified as an adverse childhood experience or “ACE”. Experiencing racism affects brain development and rewires the brain with trauma. This has lifelong effects on health and wellbeing. LGBTQ+ youth have 8x’s the suicide rate of their cisgender conforming peers. The rejection from friends, family and community due to homophobia is the root cause of this disproportionate rate of suicidality. For kids who are transgender, nearly 50% have contemplated suicide. This is why it is critical that we as individuals, within our organizations and within our community actively work towards justice, equity and inclusion. The mental wellbeing of our youth and the future generations is at stake.
At CTC Summit County, one of our core values is EQUITY. We have a long way to go. We are on the journey and I invite you and your organization to join us and take the Antiracist Pledge through the Park City Community Foundation.
As someone who leads an organization, I am committed to doing my own personal work and empowering our partners with resources and best practices so we may fully embody our values of equity, inclusion and justice. There are so many resources out there – here are some of my favorites that have helped me as a cisgender, heterosexual, white woman to work through my blind spots, open to uncomfortable conversations and embody the values I hold dear.
In Gratitude and Solidarity,
This is a short list – there are so many good reads out there.
“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X Kendi
“Me and White Supremacy; Combat racism, change the world and be a good ancestor” by Layla Saad
“White Fragility; why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism” by Robin DeAngelo
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown
“Lies My Teachers Told Me; everything your American history textbook got wrong” by James Loewen
“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn
Brene Brown with Ibram X Kendi
Brene Brown with Channing Austin Brown